Review Blog

Oct 04 2017

Koala bare by Jackie French

cover image

Ill. by Matt Shanks. Angus and Robertson, 2017. ISBN 9781460751619
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Rhyming story, Koalas, Australian animals, Bears. The koala makes it known that he is not a bear. He asserts that he does not eat honey or live in a cottage or eat bamboo nor does he come in various pastel colours. On each of the first few pages we see him standing with crossed arms, surveying the things that bears do and like. But not him as he is not a bear. He is talking to a white cockatoo intent on taking down this amazing information, scribbling notes in a notepad. The bears in the illustrations are doing all the sorts of things that children know bears do: living in polar climes, climbing telegraph poles, eating copious amounts of honey and bamboo, and looking very cute in shop windows. But our hero is not one of these, and he lets us know in strongly worded stanzas. He doesn't fish because he doesn't like squishy things, he doesn't hibernate but prefers to laze in the sun on a branch. And he certainly does not dress up, because he is bare, and shows us his posterior.
A wonderfully funny look at several important things: the difference between the words bare and bear, the fact that the koala is not a bear and as the reader reads on they will learn some of the attributes of bears. But the main focus is the fun, the wit of French's rhyming stanzas, the prediction of the rhyming word at the end of each phrase, the use of words like posterior, the attempts by the koala to get readers to see him as he is.
Matt Shank's illustrations suit the story beautifully, adding another layer of wit to French's story, giving the narrator a stance that reflects his attitude to being called a bear, and along the way showing readers exactly what real bears do. I love the nods to Goldilocks for kids to watch out for.
And in the end the koala is asking to be accepted for what he is, a neat segue into discussions about what makes us who we are.
Fran Knight

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